Here’s One Way to Reduce Healthcare Staff Burnout

By Kit Kyte, CEO, Checkit (www.checkit.net)

It’s natural that we want to bestow our healthcare workers with heroic status. They’ve been operating at the epicentre of the Covid outbreak for almost two years. And they continue to do so, despite the rise of burnout borne from exhaustion, stress, staff shortages, long hours and personal vulnerability. It is a credit to our healthcare staff that care standards remain as high as they do.

Excessive workload worsens

In England, the NHS has 94,000 vacancies, including 9,691 doctors and 38,952 nurses according to the Health Foundation think tank. The same report also claims that, ‘personnel shortages are the biggest threat to the NHS’s attempts to tackle the care backlog’

Healthcare staff burnout is a contributing factor. Stress levels have become so toxic that they risk causing staff to make mistakes and cut corners, leading to patient dissatisfaction and poor quality of care. This is supported by the findings of regulators such as the CQC. It was also evidenced in a recent report from the Kings Fund, describing the chronic excessive workload in the NHS. Authors Suzie Bailey and Michael West said: “In a context of inadequate resources including unsatisfactory levels of staffing, equipment, training and supportive leadership, workload is the number one factor predicting ever-increasing levels of staff stress.”

It’s a shocking observation, considering the times we are in and there’s clearly a need for a new approach.

The undiagnosed complaint

The pandemic has forced healthcare providers to prioritise digital transformation but it has primarily been prescribed as a treatment patient engagement. There’s an internal complaint that remains undiagnosed. Technology adoption has accelerated at an astonishing speed and that momentum will carry through into 2022. According to research by Accenture, 81% of healthcare executives are continuing to speed up the pace of innovation.

There have been huge strides in areas such as telehealth but without equivalent digital investment to empower staff, the impact of transformation efforts in healthcare will be limited. To address healthcare staff burnout, we need a forensic look at the myriad tasks our healthcare teams have to tackle on a daily basis and how this can be improved.

Eradicate punishing paperwork

Daily processes and procedures underpin almost every aspect of patient care. However, too much of what happens in healthcare is manual, bureaucratic and mired in mountains of paper-based admin. It doesn’t support staff and doesn’t align with the demands of today’s fast-moving environment.

Given the large proportion of temporary and agency staff required to support healthcare providers facing high demand and restricted resources – with staff absent due to illness or isolation – we have to look at ways to support staff who may be unfamiliar with specific localised requirements.

Checklists are not the answer. We need to eradicate paper-based, outdated, manual processes, endless feedback forms and countless audits checking up on staff. Providing joined-up systems across multiple sites, with mobile solutions for staff who have little access to desk-based technology, can be an important quality and safety driver. It’s something already being used with success at places like Hallmark Care Homes.
Provide guidance to support staff

There’s an opportunity to move forward with real-time information systems designed to guide and support staff and provide the automated audit trail for compliance and regulators, so that quality is embedded in the process of care. Given the workload in healthcare, there’s limited time for traditional training and oversight. Delivering step-by-step best practice guidance to mobile devices can strengthen confidence and consistency.

By delivering step-by-step best practice guidance to mobile devices, healthcare employers can strengthen confidence, compliance and consistency.

Mobile solutions put processes directly into the hands of the people who need them, prompting and guiding both scheduled and unscheduled work.

Reversing the rise of burnout

It’s now time to harness the power of data to bring the myriad of dark operations into the light. Doing so will reveal why the healthcare heroes exist. They cover up the cracks in the system, using huge amounts of time and energy to smooth over the bumps, repeat lost processes, generate paperwork and backdate signatures to satisfy compliance audits.

On the face of it, they are heroes. But deep down we are covering up the true problem. It’s time to build better support structures for healthcare staff, harnessing digital innovation to reduce manual burdens and begin to reverse the rise of burnout.

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